Portsmouth forced to pull out of RFU Senior Vase tie at Reeds Weybridge

Portsmouth Rugby action. Picture: Keith Woodland (091119-53)
Portsmouth Rugby action. Picture: Keith Woodland (091119-53)
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Portsmouth have been forced to withdraw from their RFU Senior Vase tie this weekend.

Neil McRoberts' men were due to be travelling to Reeds Weybridge in the competition.

However, a shortage of front-row players means Portsmouth are unable to fulfil the fixture.

McRoberts admitted it was a regrettable decision, but he felt they had no choice.

‘The rigours of the last few weeks have taken their toll,' said McRoberts.

‘Any other position on the field we could have covered but the front row is such a specialist area.

‘The only prop forwards available were either vets or social players.

‘It is a great shame because we were regional champions last season and reached the last four nationally.

‘It is a real shame.’

n Hampshire under-18’s open their season against Surrey under-18s at Alresford RFC on Sunday (2pm).  

And manager Steve Walker is expecting a big test for his team.

‘It should prove to be a big test for the Hampshire boys as Surrey always put out a strong side,’ said Walker.

‘This is an exciting time for the boys as they get to play with very skilful team-mates against an equally skilful opposition.

‘To add to the pressure the game will be observed by the London and South East divisional selectors.

‘This will be the first opportunity for the boys to demonstrate that they are ready to step up to the next level in their career.

‘Team selection for this game has been challenging and made even more difficult with some players becoming unavailable.

‘We have also made sure that the bench is as strong as the starting 15 as all players will have at least half a game.

‘Although most of the team have represented the county previously at younger ages, there are a few players wining their county ties.

‘As we have only had one development session with the squad, it is going to be very interesting to see how the team works together.

‘As part of player development the coaches have decided to try a couple of the players in different positions than those they usually play.

‘We are expecting Surrey to be bigger and stronger then Hampshire but we hope to counter this with faster and more agile players.

‘The only major worry is that, with all the rain this week, the pitch will be heavy going which will slow Hampshire down and turn the game into a battle of the forwards.

‘There will be two more games in this season so we have the chance to tweak things after Sunday.

‘The coaching team feel Hampshire have some very strong players and are looking forward to seeing how well they perform in this high-level game.’

London and South East division select from six counties, so only the very best will be invited to their trials in the spring.

n The Rugby Against Cancer team face a massive fixture when they face Wales deaf rugby team at Dinas Powys RFC.

The event is aiming to raise funds and awareness of the Marie Curie hospice Holme Towers, in memory of the father of one of the Welsh players.

Several Hampshire clubs are represented; Aaron Beesley and Ian Long (Portsmouth), Grant Morris and Charlie Wright (Havant), Jackson Clark, Nick Blumlein, Jordan Hunter and Oli Bowles (Petersfield), Stu Miller and Matt Hill (Locksheath Pumas), Aiden Kemp and Will Larkin (Gosport & Fareham), Joe Marsh and Nat Pearson (Southsea Nomads) and Luke Wilson (Milbrook).

Hampshire’s own Jeff Highcock is taking up the task of refereeing the fixture.

‘Rugby Against Cancer was set up to support local cancer charities and now we have decided to support rugby players and their immediate family who are dealing with cancer,' said captain Beesley

‘Since we began in May we have raised more than £32,000 for charities and fundraisers.

‘We are excited for the next 12 months as we have some big events, including Good Friday Rugby Day at Petersfield, August Family Funday (date TBC) and the 'Trek 2 Twickers' in June and more.’

The organisation are always looking to sponsors and supporters, so if you want to get involved find them on Facebook and Twitter @cancerrugby or email info@rugbyagainstcancer.com